Sony Boasts Home-Court Advantage as Sony Open Goes 3D
Sony will conduct its latest foray into 3D sports production on its home turf, teaming with the PGA Tour, Golf Channel, and Comcast to broadcast the Sony Open live in 3D in January from Waialae Country Club in Oahu, HI. Sony hopes that the home-court advantage provided by its sponsorship of the event will create an environment open to experimentation.
“All these events are part of our learning curve. This is our event, so it’s a pretty much an all-Sony show,” says Rob Willox, director, 3D Business Development, Sony Electronics. “It is our event so it affords us a world-class opportunity to test-drive some 3D gear. It’s also the perfect chance to try out this [3D] equipment with Sony people from the U.S., Japan, and Europe all being present and contributing to it.”
The 3D coverage of the tournament’s final two rounds on Saturday Jan. 15 and Sunday Jan. 16 will be produced and distributed to U.S. households by Golf Channel and Comcast and will also be made available to PGA Tour broadcast partners around the world.
Six Rigs, Four Holes
The production will deploy six Element Technica 3D rigs equipped with Sony HDC-P1 cameras and HDFA-200 3G camera adapters (which allow two cameras to use one fiber connection). Sony’s new MPE-200 multi-image processor with the MPES-3D01 stereo image-processing software will also be used to control the ET rigs, maintain camera alignment, and provide correction for errors introduced in the camera chain, including image geometry and color matching.
The six 3D rigs will be placed at four holes: 17 and 18 and two on the front nine to be determined (most likely, a par 3 and a par 4, according to Willox).
Both of NEP’s dedicated 3D production trucks (SS31 and SS32) are booked up for the foreseeable future, so NEP will outfit SS9 with 3D monitors and the necessary gear for a 3D show. In addition, VER will provide much of the rented gear for the Sony Open production.
Not a Comcast-Only Affair
Although Comcast will be in charge of distribution, the 3D telecast will not necessarily be exclusive to Comcast customers, and other carriage deals could potentially be announced before the tournament in January.
“Golf Channel will produce it,” says Willox. “Then, they will beam it back to [the Comcast Media Center in] Denver; and then, Comcast will be in charge of distributing that to the various cable [and satellite] companies.”
Continuing To Experiment
Sony plans to test a variety of 3D gear during the production as well as during the first two days of the tournament. The MPE-200 3D processor and MPES-2D3D 2D-to-3D conversion software are among the tools Sony plans to experiment with in Hawaii.
“We’re definitely going to be doing a bit of experimenting on the first two days of the tournament to see what is appropriate,” says Willox. “We’re bringing the MP-200 with the 2D-3D conversion software in it so we can take a look at that. There’s a bunch of different technologies we’re going to try out so we can see if they are appropriate.”
Building on 2010
Sony has swum extensively in the 3D waters in 2010, serving as the official sponsor of ESPN’s new 3D network and for 3D coverage of The Masters golf tournament (co-produced by ESPN and CBS) from Augusta in April. In addition, Sony has conducted 3D tests at multiple events over the past year, including initial experimentation with golf at the 2010 Sony Open last January.
“These 3D shows are becoming a little less experimental and more mainstream every time we do them,” says Willox. “I think we’ve come a long way since last year’s tests [at the Sony Open].”
Golf in 3D: Chapter Three
The Sony Open will be the third golf tournament to be produced in 3D in the U.S., following the Masters in April and Turner’s 3D production of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in August. Many argue that golf produces the most compelling 3D images of any sport, given its beautiful courses and ability to place cameras just a few feet away from the players.
“Hawaii is a beautiful place, and, in my opinion, golf is one of the sports that benefits the most from 3D,” says Willox. “I really dug what we did at the Masters last year. I had no idea that Augusta was that beautiful because I don’t get to play Augusta and not many people do. It’s going to be very interesting to see this Hawaii course in all its beauty.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem seconds Willox’s sentiments: “We have seen what high-definition does for golf telecasts. And 3D is the logical next step to enhancing our broadcasts and providing fans with the ultimate viewing experience, particularly in such a beautiful setting as Hawaii.”
Three More Years in Hawaii
In addition to the 3D announcement, Sony, the PGA Tour, and Friends of Hawaii Charities (the host organization of the tournament) announced that the consumer-electronics giant has extended its title sponsorship by three years, through 2014. The tournament is entering its 13th year with Sony as title sponsor; this year’s was broadcast to approximately 560 million households in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide .
Says Finchem, “We are delighted that Sony has agreed to extend its sponsorship by three years with the PGA Tour and Friends of Hawaii Charities and look forward to continuing our collaboration with Sony on the development and expansion of 3D broadcasting.”